Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the City of Philadelphia had violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment when it refused to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) because CSS won’t serve LGBTQ people who want to be foster parents.
Although the Court did not side with the City, as civil rights advocates had hoped, the Court’s narrow ruling still does not create a broader license to discriminate on the basis of religion, nor does it or create a right for taxpayer-funded foster care agencies to discriminate.
In finding for the plaintiffs, the Court said that Philadelphia’s system of individualized exemptions for different agencies meant its policy was not applied neutrally to all foster care agencies, and therefore it must grant an exemption to CSS. Governments will continue to be able to enforce nondiscrimination laws for protected groups so long as they do so consistently and fairly.
Today’s ruling highlights the importance and need for effective nondiscrimination protections in child welfare programs and throughout the country, including the passage of legislation like the Equality Act and the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act. The John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and marital status against families and youth in taxpayer-funded child welfare services to ensure that every child has a loving home where they can thrive. The Equality Act would affirm that LGBTQ people deserve to be free from discrimination everywhere in the US, and that no person should be denied housing, healthcare, or government services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We must call on Congress to pass these urgently needed bills now and to ensure that LGBTQ Americans can live openly without the fear of discrimination because of who they are.